By MIKE GRAMAJO
After starting the season in a slump, midfielder Keith Savage’s 90th minute strike lifted the Tampa Bay Rowdies to a 3-2 victory against Minnesota United FC on Saturday afternoon at the Metrodome during North American Soccer League action.
The Rowdies now sit with 11 points, tied in first place, after the Carolina RailHawks failed to record a victory against the Atlanta Silverbacks later that day.
Forward Ruben Luna recorded his fourth goal of the season for the Silverbacks, as they went on to defeat the RailHawks 2-0, which gave the them their first loss of the season.
The San Antonio Scorpions took their first victory of the season, defeating the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 3-1, Saturday night at Toyota Field. The victory not only gave the Scorpions their first three points of the spring season, but lifted them over the Strikers who now sit in last place in the NASL standings.
Here’s a closer look at what happened in Week 7 in the NASL:
ROWDIES TAKE PIVOTAL THREE POINTS ON THE ROAD
The Rowdies took the top of the table after a five-goal thriller in Minnesota, which ended 3-2 in favor for the Tampa side thanks to a late winner from the 27-year-old Gulf Breeze, Florida native, Keith Savage.
“I’m really delighted to come to Minnesota and get all three points,” Rowdies coach Ricky Hill told NASL.com. “I think on the balance of play they will be disappointed but I was delighted with my team’s resolve throughout the game.”
Midfielder Shane Hill opened up the scoring for the Rowdies right before halftime in spectacular fashion. After a free kick was punched away at the top of the box by United goalkeeper Darryl Sattler, Hill hit a first-time volley that chipped over everyone and fell into the back of the net, giving his side a shock lead just before the break.
Michael Reed leveled the game for United in the 54th minute, only for Tampa’s Luke Mulholland to give the Rowdies the lead moments later slammed a half-volley over the head of Sattler and just under the crossbar.
The second half goal-fest continued when United forward Simone Bracalello split the Rowdies defense to tie the match again for the hosts. Tampa’s persistent attacks eventually helped the visitors pick up a crucial win, as Savage cannoned the ball into the net just before the final whistle, taking advantage of a mistake from United defender Kevin Friedland.
With the loss, United are now winless in three consecutive games, with their last victory coming last month during a 3-2 road victory against the Silverbacks.
OPPORTUNISTIC SILVERBACKS PICK UP WIN OVER RAILHAWKS
The Silverbacks snapped their three-game winless skid as they defeated the RailHawks, 2-0, in front of 4,716 fans in Atlanta Silverbacks Park. Goals from forward Ruben Luna and defender Martyn Lancaster earned the Silverbacks three points as they leaped over Minnesota United for a third place spot in the NASL table.
“I didn’t care how we got it,” Silverbacks coach Brian Haynes told NASL.com. “We needed to get back on a winning streak and we did that tonight. “We’ve worked hard and I’m proud of the boys.”
Luna, who went two consecutive games without scoring, picked up his fourth goal of the season, scoring six minutes into the match. The former FC Dallas homegrown signing raced onto a through ball before skipping past the RailHawks goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald. From an acute angle, Luna sent a low shot towards goal that Railhawks defender Paul Hamilton tried to save on the line, but he only helped it along, giving the Silverbacks a crucial opening tally.
The RailHawks went a man down in the 53rd minute when midfielder Floyd Franks’ tackle outside the box led referee Jonathan Weiner to give Franks a straight red card. From that point on, the Silverbacks took control of the match, scoring their second of the game when midfielder Danny Barrera’s cross in the 76th minute found Lancaster’s head in front of goal, and the Silverback defender couldn’t miss from five yards out.
The Silverbacks now look towards Tuesday’s second round U.S. Open Cup match as they visit National Premier Soccer League side Georgia Revolution.
SCORPIONS GRAB FIRST VICTORY
The San Antonio Scorpions looked like their season was finished, but Saturday night’s 3-1 victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers might just be a sign of good things to come.
Scorpions midfielder Javier Saavedra scored one and assisted on another in the victory, scoring within the first minute of play and then finding teammate Luka Vucko in the 53rd minute to seal the victory for the San Antonio side.
“We felt if we opened up the game we would have more chances on goal,” Scorpions coach Tim Hankinson told NASL.com after the game. “We’re starting to learn a little bit more about ourselves.”
The Strikers now fall to last in the table, meanwhile the Scorpions have a chance to catch up in the standings when visit the Silverbacks on Saturday at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
What do you think of the Scorpions picking up their first win? Can the RailHawks bounce back from their shocking first loss of the season? Will the Rowdies take sole possession of first place in the NASL standings?
SBI NASL POWER RANKINGS: WEEK 7:
- CAROLINA RAILHAWKS (Last week – 1) – The RailHawks may have suffered their first defeat on Saturday, but let’s just say the outcome for next week may change things, especially when you have the Rowdies and the Silverbacks breathing down your neck.
- TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (4) – The 2012 NASL Champions performance on Saturday showed exactly why the deserve the No. 2 spot. Despite not being able to yet register a victory at home, their victory on the road may be what the Rowdies need to build some momentum.
- FC EDMONTON (3) – Let’s give the Eddies deserve a benefit of the doubt. They were in a bye week for week seven action, and currently three games unbeaten in NASL action. They host the Strikers this Saturday.
- MINNESOTA UNITED FC (2) – The objective is to remain consistent and aim for first place. The Rowdies made sure that didn’t happen for United, which has resulted into Minnesota falling two spots.
- ATLANTA SILVERBACKS (5) – Their victory over league-leading Carolina RailHawks has ended their three-game misery and they may have a chance of going up in the rankings if they stop the Scorpions from building momentum.
- SAN ANTONIO SCORPIONS (7) – Their 2012 performance has come nowhere near to how their 2013 performance has been going, but winning for the first time this season on Saturday could turn things around for the Scorpions.
- FT. LAUDERDALE STRIKERS (6) – Consistency, consistency, consistency. That is something that has been lacking for the Strikers this season. They can turn things around, but have a hard task in hand when they go north of the border when they visit the Eddies on Sunday.